Created by Cardiologists
Trusted by Doctors

There are no items in your bag

Product added to shopping cart

Pros and Cons of Drinking Alcohol

bottles and glasses filled with champagne
Anew s
A new study from the British Medical Journal reported that even moderate amounts of alcohol might eventually damage one’s brain and impair thinking. We have known for decades that heavy drinking is associated with higher risks of stroke and dementia, but many previous studies indicated that light or even moderate drinking might protect the brain in middle age and beyond.
Anya Topiwala and her colleagues at the University of Oxford studied the link between alcohol intake and brain structure on MRI scans in a group of 550 people who have been followed for three decades as part of the White-hall Study.
They found that consuming more than 15 drinks per week was associated with a more shrunken hippocampus - a structure in the brain that’s important for memory. Even drinking eight to 14 drinks per week had an adverse effect on the hippocampus size. They also noted that the white matter in the brain, which is like insulation around electrical wire, was of a poorer quality in individuals who were drinking more than 10 to 14 drinks per week.
This study has several limitations, including the fact that it’s an observational study comprised of nearly all males, so it can give us hints but cannot prove that moderate alcohol consumption is bad for the brain.
Furthermore, we know that when asking people about their alcohol consumption, they tend to markedly underestimate how much they drink. In medical school, we are taught to generally double the number of drinks a patient admits to consuming. In this study, this underestimation of drinking would tend to make light to moderate drinking look more harmful to the brain than it actually is.
Even so, this study clearly contradicts the common notion that drinking moderately can protect brain function and preserve thinking skills over time.
At the very least, these studies should be a warning to be honest with yourself about your alcohol intake, and to heed the U.S. guidelines that advise not more than 14 drinks per week for men or more than seven drinks per week for women.
On the other hand, a new authoritative study published in Diabetologia, found that regular moderate drinkers have reduced risks of developing diabetes. Danish researchers followed 70,000 people and found that overall, men and women who drank between seven to 14 drinks per week had about one-third lower risk of diabetes. This squares nicely with many previous studies, which have consistently found that light or moderate drinking seems to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Although wine and beer were linked with lowers risks of developing diabetes, distilled spirits were not.
New national guidelines released in 2016 by the United Kingdom (UK) Health Department recommend that both men and women drink no more than seven alcoholic drinks per week. I believe we should follow the UK’s stance on this issue. Both men and women should consume no more than a single drink daily, ideally before or with the evening meal.
Just to be clear, one drink equals:
• Wine 6 ounces
• Beer 12 ounces
• Distilled spirits (80 proof) 1.5 ounces
In Good Health,
James O'Keefe, MD